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Emmys Drop Episode-Length Criteria for Comedy and Drama Categories

A show’s length will no longer be the deciding factor as to whether it competes as a comedy or a drama series at the Emmy awards, the Television Academy said Monday.

A show’s length will no longer be the deciding factor as to whether it competes as a comedy or a drama series at the Emmy awards, the Television Academy said Monday.

In the past, half-hour shows were automatically considered comedies and one-hour shows were considered dramas, unless they requested a different classification.

Per the Television Academy’s newly revealed rule changes for the 74th Emmy Awards, “Categorization based on program length for a comedy or drama series has been eliminated. Episode length will no longer dictate submission categories. Instead, producers will now determine category submission with the stipulation that the Television Academy’s Industry Panel reserves the right to review the producer’s preference. Comedy and drama series are defined as programs with multiple episodes (minimum of six) in which the content is primarily comedic for comedy series entries or primarily dramatic for dramatic series entries. In addition, the ongoing theme, storyline and main characters are presented under the same title and have continuity of production supervision. The exception is programming under 20 minutes, which must be submitted in short-form categories.”

This means that FX’s “Atlanta” (pictured above), for instance, while a half-hour show that has previously won Outstanding Comedy Series at the 2018 Emmys, would not immediately be considered a comedy when competing moving forward. Series creator Donald Glover and the show’s other producers will choose between the comedy and drama categories at the time of submission.

Other rule changes made by the Television Academy’s board of governors as recommended by its awards committee include the previously announced definition of theatrical motion pictures now meaning that “any film placed on the viewing platform for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be deemed a theatrical motion picture and thus ineligible for the Emmy competition,” as well as alterations made in the stunts and voice-over categories and “expanded entry eligibility for various professionals working on reality programming, animation and special visual effects,” per the Television Academy.

These changes made to the rule book by the Television Academy ahead of the 2022 show — which will be available in full at Emmys.com in January — come amid a larger shakeup to Emmy awards that will see shows now compete based solely on their genre, not their time slot.

Last week, the Television Academy (the organization behind the Primetime Emmys) and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the organization behind the Daytime Emmys) revealed their plans to realign the Emmy awards categories in response to the changing ways in which people consume television and also follows NATAS’ plan to give the children’s and family shows their own awards ceremony apart from the Daytime ceremony.

However, the two organizations said there are currently no discussions for the Academies to re-merge as one single Academy. What’s more, all the Emmys Competitions and shows will retain their current names in recognition of their longstanding respective legacies. 

The two academies will also work together to determine eligibility between competitions and categories and are encouraging producers who are unsure of which competition they’re eligible for to submit to a panel for review prior to submitting for consideration into an Emmys race.

“This year our Awards Committee has worked with industry colleagues to further define program eligibility for the Emmy competition,” Frank Scherma, chairman and CEO for the Television Academy, said in a statement accompanying the Emmy rule changes Monday. “We’ve made great strides in differentiating what is eligible for our respective competitions, in concert with ongoing changes in content development and distribution.”